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Alexandros would actually approve of Nicatha, but be a little...well, a lot...disappointed that she's only half-drow.
Umina nods understandingly at Sādhanā. "So what was causing that distortion?"
Zeph smiles at Arista. "I wish I could give you more. But what I really wish for is this land to be better. Perhaps that sword can aid you, maybe not. We are, for better or worse, rooted in our history. It defines us and our course in life. It strengthens us, but we are unprepared for the unexpected. You are without a piece of history, you are still writing your own. I think that might give you an advantage. I will take some more tea, thank you."
Zeph sips his tea and folds his hands. "I'll tell you what I know. After your brother left to find you, Lansing sent out a group of hunters to find him. All they found was that broken sword of his. They found some tracks leading north, but they were stopped at the Rimespire Mountains. Whatever happened to him is unknown and more answers may be in those forsaken mountains..."
Zeph opens that gate for you, looking at you with obvious concern. "Of course, you are welcome here. Please rest and we can talk. You may use the caves as before. I will be at the dining hall."
Umina is standing at the entrance of the caves. "Quite an uproar you caused, coming back after all this time. We feared you were dead."
The Anizari's eyes drift to Sādhanā, before she draws her sword, placing the flat of the blade against Marcus' forehead. The young man's color improves and he stands on his own two feet again. Umina sheathes her sword and heads back to her smithy.
After the destruction of the shards in this regions, vegetation has come back improved and in vast quantities. A lot of the plants in this region are quite useful for poultices and remedies.
Leaving the fortress proves to be easier than your entrance, as some of the water seems to have dried up in the short while that you have been inside. The bright light of midday shines upon your faces as you step back out into the swamp. You easily find your path and makes your way back to Malwen. Upon your approach to the village, the guards at the gate give you a curious look and ask you to wait. Zeph, the aasimar, comes to the gate and also gives you a curious look.
"Why have you returned after a month?"
The shard shatters and the strange aura seems to subside, but a swirling cloud of dust surrounds you now.
"Well, old friend, it's time," a voice familiar to some of you calls out into the darkness.
"Vonder, I am neither your friend nor do I care about the game you continue to play," a growling voice replies.
Two green pinprick lights bob and weave in the dark for a moment before turning into flaming orbs. The light reveals the blonde, bespectacled man sitting on a large rock. He wears dark finery and leather gloves. Adjusting his glasses, he addresses the floating green orbs.
"But I've done much to help you," he says solemnly.
"You serve Chaos. You tore my flesh from me and crafted it into little toys for these so-called necromancers under the pretense of finding a secret to immortality."
"But that was the goal, wasn't it?"
"I wish to be unchained, free..."
"And thanks to these moral adventurers, it is only a matter of time," Vonder interjects, jocularly.
"My vision dims and that pleases me. I surveyed these lands for so long watching your pawns be consumed by madness. These adventurers finally gouge these pitiful scenes from my mind. I would thank them, if they were not an obstacle."
"I doubt your graciousness will get you far. They will find out what you've done, if they haven't already."
The voice in the darkness laughs. "Then they would have fled in terror if they knew."
"The others have begun to take their places. Soon, this place will be a ravaged wasteland," Vonder says, contemplatively.
"It will be so by my own hand."
"I sincerely hope they kill you, Godslayer."
"So that your true master will be free?"
"Yes. That's all I've been working for these last thousand years. You are just the fool who got in the way."
"Perhaps I shall devour you as well."
Vonder shrugs. "In the end, I still win."
"I learned something during my time asleep."
"It will be quite the surprise."
"The other players are just about in place. I hope it's something to impress them all."
"It will be, Vonder, it will be."
Since I said I'm sorry:
Elena pulls Drago back to the bed for a moment, before he dresses himself. "Just a moment."
She pulls a small vial of cream and rubs it on the scars on his chest. Within moments, they begin to fade and all that's left is some indiscernible discoloration of his flesh. She stashes the vial in her belongings again.
"At least, take back some of the dignity they stole from you," Elena offers with a smile.
Another strike sends the top of the shard to the ground, shattering it and its branches. You feel the strange aura surrounding you now. Sādhanā is sure one more strike will destroy the shard.
Unlike the other visions, you see the others around you. You stand in a black hall that seems to ebb and flow. A single figure stands at the end of the hall, chains hanging from his arms and midsection.
"So, we meet, adventurers," the voice comes, soothing and grating at once. "Look upon me."
He takes a few steps forward to reveal a twisted visage with his lips torn away from his face forming a hideous grin and several large spikes jutting from the crown of his head.
"I am Zon-Kuthon. And I simply ask you to punish a common enemy: Vencious. In return, I offer you a simple truth: the purpose of the shards."
He steps back into the shadows. "Take his life and my knowledge will be yours."
The shard cracks as Sādhanā attacks. A strange aura emanates from the crack, but the shard still stands.
"Lord Asmodeus, Baraxias has returned," the herald kneeling at the ebon throne proclaims.
"Send him in," the dry, cultured voice of Asmodeus says, filling the room with his authority and presence.
A tall devil, skin the color of blood and hair like the midnight sky, walks in. His leathery wings draped around him like a cloak and his horns polished. You wished to see me, Lord Asmodeus."
"Indeed. I see that you are catering to an already corrupt soul, his afterlife long promised to you," the god of the damned begins. "I am often irritated with Belial's little "projects". These new breed of devil being chief among them. However, as Lord of the Fourth, he is afforded much more liberty than you, an Infernal Duke."
Baraxias looks concerned. "What would you have me do?"
"Vencious and his petty soul are of no concern to me. I need you in Hannal now."
The Lord of Hell glares at the devil. "Are you questioning my authority?"
"No, of course not. I-it is...that there is another reason beyond Vencious," Baraxias stammers.
"Adventurers are destroying the bonds of the Godslayer."
"I see," Asmodeus muses, his thin fingernail tapping the armrest of his throne. "Are they aware of what they are doing?"
"Wipe them out, then," the Prince of Darkness says with a sweeping gesture of his arm. "This shouldn't be complicated."
"One of the adventurers is my great-granddaughter..."
"So, that's what this is? Sentiment and foolishness?" Asmodeus roars, a slight laugh behind his anger.
"She is the last promised to me by Vencious. I aim to collect."
"You've given him more than immortality...three generations damned isn't enough," Asmodeus says. "This descendant of yours will serve me for no less than five-hundred years and a day."
Baraxias nods. "As you will, Lord Asmodeus."
The devil turns and leaves the chamber. Asmodeus sighs and looks to an attendant.
"Have my forces withdraw from Hannal. Give that insufferable paladin, Barclay, a reprieve. As much as I detest this, we must turn our attention to Zahvroma."
The spirits paint no portrait of the vanara. "He has been touched by divinity several times. The agent of Nethys is unknown to us. He possesses..."
The spirits take on a frightened tone. "The Godslayer's influence is upon him. The Godslayer shall consume all. The Godslayer is the key. The Godslayer awakens..."
"This shard is larger than the others. In fact, it is about half the size of the original now," Oblivion notes. "Destroying it may take several strikes."
The Harakhty Chronicles Addendum:
Slipping the mask on, Harakhty feels the sensation of being elsewhere. "This arrangement hasn't been to my satisfaction, Suntooth. For a whole month, you've kept me confined within these walls. I learn nothing here. If you think that I am a liability, then put me in someone else's hands."
The mask's terse voice fades.
The Harakhty Chronicles Finale:
Timothy takes Harakhty's apology almost tearfully. "Yes, that is best."
The apprentice makes no more mention of the incident, much to Michael's relief.
The fight at the docks reveals much. First, Sessaly did not radiate good to the vanara. Second, no paladin there seemed surprised by the incident or the outcome.
The vanara woman is unfamiliar to Harakhty, her fur the color of the shadows between the trees. She possessed the air of a hunter of the keen sort, cold and pragmatic. She momentarily gazes in his direction but gives him no further attention. Her companions were at the forefront of her mind and Harakhty could tell this just by her expression.
The clergy of Nethys is honestly surprised to see Harakhty, but maintain their composure as he makes himself known to them. Many of them died on Icathia's shores, only a handful remain. They take a keen interest in Michael's endeavors, seeing the nurturing of magical talents to be most in line with their interests for the time being. The most senior among the clerics is a young man named Ashram, whom the vanara recalls was merely a novice at the time of his departure. He greets Harakhty warmly and invites him to share his stories when he pleases.
When Harakhty visits Clara, she merely asks if he had heard anything from the rest of the party or if he knew of their whereabouts. Three weeks of not knowing had taken a toll on the woman, any consolation is rebuffed. She takes to her practice, preferring isolation and regimented activity.
The new month comes, bringing colder weather and some strange sort of peace. Valwick looks like a proper town now and the people have taken to calling themselves Zahvromans. In the first days of the month, the mask whispers to the vanara in the dark hours of the night. As usual, it falls silent after being ignored. Godrick's health has improved by leaps and bounds, not a day passes where Harakhty does not see the elder paladin teaching others to wield their swords or practice their faith. Yet, the vanara sees the longing in the old man's eyes.
You decided to investigate further before destroying the shard.
Sienna picks up the mask and stows it in her pack. "It should be destroyed but it's made of enchanted dragon scales and part of a dragon's claw. Not sure how to destroy it, but I definitely don't want to leave it here for some other fool to pick it up."
The tiefling looks at Marcus. "I quite prefer him this way. At least, he can't complain. I'll take him though."
She hefts him on her back and waits for the group to decide what it's going to do next.
The Harakhty Chronicles pt.4b:
The next few days are tense as more survivors arrive, the final ship bearing Elder Sister from the Green Circle, Battlemaster Verrin from the Icathian Royal Army and the rest of the Explorer's League. For better or worse, Maximilian Vonder is not among them. The head of the Explorer's League was reportedly slain during the invasion.
"Take your leave, Sessaly," Godrick says icily. "This isn't a matter of the Church's anymore. The interests of the Lords and the Cardinal are not mine, nor are they concerns for these people here. This isn't a settlement, this is a refugee camp."
"Godrick, you risk excommunication," Sessaly growls, her hand nearing her blade. "Nothing would give me greater satisfaction, I'll admit."
Upon those words, Godrick struck at her. "I may be excommunicated from your church of decadence and sin, but I am still a servant of the Goddess. Who in the Nine Hells do you serve?"
Sessaly draws her sword and attacks Godrick, who parries with expert skill. Godrick cuts across her face with a deadly strike. The gash is horizontal and deep, one that would mar Sessaly's beauty for all time. It is more than a wound, it is a mark of enmity. This enrages Sessaly, who makes many mistakes, allowing Godrick to easily defeat her.
"This isn't over, Godrick!"
"Get on your ship, get off this island. The only reason you live is by the fragile mercy of Iomedae," Godrick declares, sheathing his sword.
"You are hereby excommunicated from the Church of Iomedae. You are an enemy to the church and you shall be punished as one, so help you Iomedae," Sessaly says, spitting blood at his feet. "Paladins! You are to return home at once!"
The dwarves, Hadrinn and Kierk, emerge from the crowd of paladins who are murmuring among themselves. "Seeing as you left us for dead twenty-odd years ago, this is our home now. An' as far as we see it, Godrick's our commander."
The paladins disperse, leaving Godrick alone with Sessaly. "You can send Barclay, you can send your armies and you can send that thrice-damned Cardinal of yours who you've consorted with for your position. I will be here and I will drive them all back to the depths of the ocean and into the pits of the Abyss. My mission is divine, my faith absolute and my conviction unwavering. We no longer stand on the same side...I will kill you if I see you again."
Sessaly departs from Valwick soon after, many breathing sighs of relief. Godrick, however, does not relax. Despite consolations, Godrick seems not afraid, but resigned to future conflict. Elder Sister takes to tending to the old paladin in the evenings, knowing that Godrick is their best chance at outlasting the Church of Iomedae. This knowledge, given the disaster that happened at Ashford, begins to spread fear of Reinhardt and his eventual return.
One more and this will be done.
The Harakhty Chronicles pt.4:
Michael nods. "I'll let Thomas know. He's had very few friends since he's been under my tutelage. Wandering tends to be bad for long term relationships. Feel free to join us for dinner, Harakhty. You as well, Godrick, since you're up and about."
Fences mended, the next week arrives and the party has still not returned. Clara seems to be in a dour mood, but ever-present. While she does not pester the vanara for information, she often looks in his direction. Progress is made on the building of Valwick, the Jinzhi and paladins eagerly setting up houses. Even Michael lends a hand in construction.
Haven't slept much. More later.
Miss Chance <20: 1d100 ⇒ 28
Arista cuts into the serpentfolk, drawing more blood from him. Gregario does not have the same luck however.
S hp: 10
The serpentfolk quickly lashes out at Arista with his readied dagger.
Readied Action: 1d20 + 11 ⇒ (7) + 11 = 18; miss
It then attacks Gregario and Arista with its dagger and fangs.
Dagger vs Gregario: 1d20 + 11 ⇒ (6) + 11 = 17; miss
Round 6: Serpentfolk, Sādhanā, Cyna, Alethiro, Sienna, Arista, Gregario
The Harakhty Chronicles Intermission:
"Michael is more than a teacher, he's a friend and a role model," Thomas explains. "He recognized my gifts when no one else did. If anything, I just want to help Master Andimus with his dream."
Timothy looks ashamed as Harakhty runs off, holding the medallion in his hand. When Harakhty manages to find Godrick, the elder paladin shakes his head.
"I am ill-suited to the task of being a paper-pusher," Godrick says, with a bitter smile. "I think the best thing to do is relax for the time being. If the rumors circulating have any truth to them, I fear the worst is to come."
Michael appears shortly afterward, looking concerned. "Harakhty, I apologize for Timothy and anything he may have done. Please forgive him and me."
Miss Chance <20: 1d100 ⇒ 38
Sādhanā manages to cut the serpentfolk, despite its illusions. Cyna and Alethiro finish off the last of the lizardfolk.
Sienna hp: 28
S hp: 17
Sienna fires another scorching ray at the serpentfolk.
SR: 1d20 + 5 ⇒ (17) + 5 = 22; Ranged Touch: 1d20 + 5 ⇒ (13) + 5 = 18; Damage: 4d6 ⇒ (3, 4, 3, 6) = 16
"Take that, ya bastard!" the tiefling exclaims.
Round 5: Serpentfolk, Sādhanā, Cyna, Alethiro, Sienna, Arista, Gregario
The Harakhty Chronicles pt.3:
The next few days bring little but more misery upon Godrick. The vanara sees little of the old paladin, shut away in his makeshift office. The only sign of Godrick's presence is a constant coughing. Ship after ship brings nothing more than bureaucrats until the end of the week, but no more than missives from Cardinal Renford.
Michael begins construction of a small cottage, managing the task with only the help of his manservant and his apprentice. The wizard expresses his concern to Harakhty about Godrick's decline in health. Despite this, Michael continues to attempt to foster his friendship with the vanara, offering aid whenever Harakhty deems it necessary to ask.
In the meantime, the mask whispers to Harakhty, but, after a few days of being ignored, falls silent. In prayer, Nethys gives no indication of pleasure or displeasure. It is as it was, as it will be.
Michael and his retinue help Harakhty finish the fort's renovations after the cottage is completed. Through conversation, the vanara learns that the apprentice, Thomas, is an avid huntsman. He accompanies Harakhty on hunts and during his fishing trips. Thomas proves to be a keen sort and even gives Harakhty tips on good fishing spots and tactics. Thomas gives the vanara a small medallion to help him with his drilling.
It provides a constant Guidance effect when worn.
The end of the week brings a drastic change. After overhearing several conversations and rumors, Harakhty finds out that a war has broken out between the Lords of Covington. The bureaucrats and retainers summarily leave, as migrants from Jin Zhao arrive. Michael remains behind as he is uninterested in political battles and is somewhat relieved at their departure. Godrick seems in better spirits and in better health as they leave.
I want to try and break this up, so another part will be forthcoming. As usual, expand on anything you'd like to, Harakhty.
Sādhanā cuts down another lizardfolk with ease. Sienna steps to Alethiro's side and attacks the lizardfolk on him.
Attack vs L3: 1d20 + 3 ⇒ (14) + 3 = 17; Damage: 1d6 ⇒ 3
L3 hp: 8
L4 hp: 2
S hp: 26
The lizardfolk strike back against the tieflings.
L3 vs Sienna (M.Star): 1d20 + 2 ⇒ (14) + 2 = 16; miss
Round 4: Serpentfolk, Sādhanā, Cyna, Alethiro, Sienna, Lizardfolk, Arista, Gregario
The Harakhty Chronicles pt. 2:
Michael takes the proffered hand eagerly. "There is much mystery here, Harakhty, and there is little left to learn in civility and comfort."
He is quite open with himself, revealing that he is, in fact, one of the Lords of Covington. Yet his disdain for the title is more than apparent. Rather than focusing on coin and influence, Michael was always drawn to the arcane and the mysteries of life. He had earned some fame as a traveling scholar. Instead of using his clout to bully his way, he is rather reserved and indifferent.
I'll post more tomorrow.
The Harakhty Chronicles pt.1:
The departure of the party brings an air of staidness to the fort. Godrick tends to the spiritual welfare of the paladins during the day and takes to solemn contemplation in the evening. He remains a steadfast paragon, though Harakhty can sense a turmoil within the man. The next day brings admonitions, imperatives, chests of gold and more supplies that drive Godrick into a dark mood. Though he remains cordial with Harakhty, presenting the vanara with a deed to the fort and some of the immediate area, he approaches his tasks with a resigned grimness.
Feel free to add anything at this point, Harakhty, before I continue.
Sādhanā and Alethiro fell two more lizardfolk. Sienna moves up to attempt to dispatch another with her mace.
Attack vs. L1: 1d20 + 3 ⇒ (2) + 3 = 5; miss
L1 hp: 1
L4 hp: 2
L7 hp: 2
The lizardfolk retaliate.
L1 vs Sienna (M.Star): 1d20 + 2 ⇒ (4) + 2 = 6; miss
Round 3: Serpentfolk, Sādhanā, Cyna, Alethiro, Sienna, Lizardfolk, Arista, Gregario
Arista and Gregario land hard blows on their opponents, but not enough to finish them off.
L4 hp: 2
L1 hp: 1
L7 hp: 2
The serpentfolk takes advantage of the gap left by the lizardfolk and moves up to Cyna. He stabs quickly with his dagger.
Attack: 1d20 + 11 ⇒ (18) + 11 = 29; Damage: 1d4 - 1 ⇒ (1) - 1 = 0 (1 non-lethal damage)
Round 3: Serpentfolk, Sādhanā, Cyna, Alethiro, Sienna, Lizardfolk, Arista, Gregario
L4 hp: 2
Cyna cuts deeply into one of the lizardfolk while Alethiro and Sādhanā struggle against their foes. Sienna lets off another Scorching Ray to blast one of the lizardfolk near Alethiro.
RT: 1d20 + 5 ⇒ (6) + 5 = 11; Damage: 4d6 ⇒ (1, 3, 2, 6) = 12
The lizardfolk close in and attack.
L1 vs Gregario (M.Star): 1d20 + 2 ⇒ (9) + 2 = 11; miss
Round 2: Serpentfolk, Sādhanā, Cyna, Alethiro, Sienna, Lizardfolk, Arista, Gregario